How does your personality affect the way you worship? Part 1: Introverts
As a leader and as a worshipper I have been wondering how my personality and the personality of those I lead and worship with may affect the dynamics of gathered worship times. Could some of the struggles we experience as worship leaders, churches or individuals be because we misunderstand the different influences of personality? Could my own personal struggles or preferences have anything to do with my personality and the fact that I am an introvert?
I was reminded of a conversation I had several years ago with Sharon Earl, a personality consultant, about the differences with how introverts and extroverts engage with worship. I asked her if I could interview her about it to share with you all, and she and her business partner, Jacolien kindly took some time to explore how personality affects the way we engage with worship and prayer. It was a very enlightening conversation and I wanted to share specifically about how our personality affects the way we worship. The focus of a gathered worship time is, of course, not us, but awareness of our differences can be used to build one another up to worship Jesus together as a body. The point of exploring these differences is about supporting and challenging one another towards the fullness of Christ.
Today I am going to look at the introvert and worship and then I am going to focus on the extrovert and worship. Don't worry if you have no idea what I am talking about with this talk of extroverts and introverts, I will make it as simple as I can!
Are you right or left handed? Even if you are ambidextrous and swap more freely between two hands, you are still likely to have a preference for different skills like writing or playing tennis.
Being an introvert or an extrovert is like having a preference for which hand you use - you are going to swap between the two at different times, but you are likely to have a main preference.
But what do I mean by an introvert or an extrovert?
According to Sharon and Jacolien’s website:
If I was explaining to someone about the differences between extroverts and introverts I would say typically introverts do better in spaces where there are fewer relationships but more meaningful ones, whereas extroverts love having a wide spectrum of relationships, even if the conversations contain more small talk. Lack of depth in conversations is difficult for introverts, so often things like work social gatherings or parties are difficult unless they can find one or two people to have in-depth conversations with. A quiet night at home with a book or netflix can be an ideal Friday night for an introvert.
Introverted and extroverted people process their lives and live out their preferences in very different ways. Consequently, introverted and extroverted people will express their worship to God in different ways and some things are going to be strengths for one group and struggles for the other. I love that God made us with such beautiful different personalities and He made us to be a body who encourages, builds up and consoles one another. Understanding our differences can be really helpful in encouraging one another in the area of worship and engaging with God.
Just as there are different degrees which people use their right and left hands, but there are some ambidextrous people, there are different degrees to which people are introverts and extroverts. You may find not all these things apply to you (if you are an introvert) or to your introverted friend, partner, child etc. Please take what is helpful and leave what it not!
Gathered worship and the introvert:
Because introverts are energized by their internal thinking world, introverts often prefer quieter spaces in worship and more reflective or intimate times of worship. They enjoy spaces for silent reflection and find strength and energy in quieter moments. They often find no personal need to reflect out loud or contribute to small gathered worship times, and may be more comfortable in larger congregations where they can be anonymous and not feel that something is required of them.
Struggles for the introvert in gathered worship:
Because the introvert is often happy to live in their internal world, and sharing their thoughts and feelings requires a situation where those thoughts and feelings be appreciated, introverts are unlikely to naturally need to contribute to a gathered worship session. Contributing by praying out loud, starting a song or offering a testimony may be especially difficult in settings where an introvert does not have time to prepare mentally first, even if that preparation is only a minute or two. In fact, anything which interrupts the flow of worship or involves abrupt changes may be frustrating and irritating. Faster-moving worship may not allow them the time they need to engage mentally with the song being sung, and therefore feel more superficial.
What can introverts teach extroverts in gathered worship times?
Although introverts may typically be quieter than extroverts and more reluctant to contribute to gathered worship in ways that are not anonymous, they have many things they can bring to gathered worship and to encourage extroverts. For example:
- They naturally engage with moments of silence and understand that they can be times to connect with God. They can show extroverts that silence is not to be feared but embraced.
- They can bring an internal peace and calm to gathered worship. They do not have need for big gestures.
- They can bring spaces for reflection and silence to gathered worship times.
- Because they are naturally internally processing what is going on, they can often be focused and engaged in worship quickly which, when noted by the extrovert may spur them on.
- They can often bring depth of meaning to worship times, perhaps by offering reflective insights, creating space for reflection and silence, or by moving the times of worship beyond times of exuberant praise towards times of intimacy.
Considering introverts in times of gathered worship:
Being aware that people engage with God in worship in different ways is healthy and helpful. Allowing for moments of reflection and silence in worship, as well as avoiding sudden unexpected changes in the flow of worship can help introverts transition and maintain their engagement with God. Allowing time for introverts to prepare themselves mentally for times when there is group participation is helpful, for example, giving them time to process before calling on them for a testimony. Because introverts are more focused on their internal world, there may be much more going on inside than outside - don’t assume that a person is not engaging with God because they are not dancing or singing loudly with their hands flung in the air - they may be incredibly focused in their worship of God internally in their mind, rather than externally with their bodies.
Struggles and preferences are not excuses to remain stuck in our ways. Worship by definition should be Jesus-centred and a laying down of ourselves. Whilst we all have preferences in worship and things which naturally help us engage in worship, it is by understanding and engaging with different ways of worship that we grow and become more fully like Christ.
What do you think? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you think that influences the way you engage with worship? How have people who worship differently from you helped you engage more fully with worshipping Christ? Let me know in the comments.
Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert at times we all need help making space to connect with God. That's why I have put together a 60-second guide with 8 ways to help you connect with God in 10 minutes or less. You can grab your free copy by clicking on the image below!
Introversion and Extroversion are just two aspects of our personality. There are other aspects which come into play too, which for the sake of simplicity, I couldn’t share in this post. Sharon Earl & Jacolien van der Steenhoven are Myers-Briggs personality consultants. They work with individuals, couples and teams in church and non-church contexts to help them understand themselves and others better and to facilitate communication. They are available for online as well as in person consultation. To find out more or contact them please check out their websites (they offer free online taster sessions!):
or find them on Facebook.
Make sure you check out the blog section on their websites too for some interesting articles.